Whale Walk endures

The whale walk, conceptualised by the late Monica Miles of Gordon’s Bay, is doing well some two-and-a-half years after completion.

Built by the City of Cape Town at the suggestion of Ms Miles, it is 620m long and cost R2.3 million to build. It starts just beyond the Bikini Beach turn-off from Clarence Drive on the way to Rooiels, and ends at the first whale lookout point on the ocean side of the road, providing a safe walk on a particularly busy stretch of road (“Walkway dream realised”, Bolander February 17 2016).

The walkway, including the balustrade, is constructed of locally grown sugar gum, a timber type that wears well, is well suited to harsh conditions, and blends into the surrounding landscape as it ages.

A recent visit to the walkway showed that the timber has weathered significantly and some stretches of the balustrade are quite warped, but this is normal, according to City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron, who commented after an inspection team from the City visited the walkway subsequent to an enquiry from Bolander.

“The Whale Walk structure is made from a natural product, namely sugar gum, an extremely durable and long-lasting wood, sourced locally,” said Mr Herron. 

Sugar gum was chosen above other materials for its aesthetic value and to fit into the natural environment,” he said.

“(It) will react to climatic conditions and over time, will show the effects thereof. This, however, does not affect the durability of the material, but only the aesthetics. There may also be slight warping and misalignment.

“The choice of the material was made after careful research by our professional civil engineering consultants and with the advice of specialist suppliers from the industry.”

Mr Herron added that because of the material chosen “it has aged beautifully, the walkway is structurally as sound as it was the day it was completed, it holds no risk for the safety of the public who use it and it requires no ongoing maintenance.”

“The inspection team found misalignment in three places, caused mainly by slight warping of the upright posts in each locality, a single plank which seems to have been replaced with an inferior wood, and two railings showing signs of abnormal splitting,” Mr Herron said.

“We will replace that one plank with sugar gum, and we’ll approach the timber supplier for advice about the abnormal splitting,” he said, “but other than that, there is no evidence of undue deterioration, the structure is in good health and does not need any major repairs or maintenance. It is certainly safe to use and there is no need for concern.”

There is small plastic sign at either end of the walkway, which tells the story of how it came to be as a result of Monica Miles campaigning, but the sign at the Bikini Beach end has been vandalised. The City did not respond to Bolander’s enquiry as to when the sign would be replaced.